The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Inquiry-Based Learning with Front Row

I have been using Front Row in my classroom for the past two years to provide my students with differentiated math instruction. This year I also started using it with my guided math groups to help me plan for targeted instruction and make sure that I am giving my students the level and variety of work that they need to improve their math skills and strategic thinking. I have really enjoyed using Front Row because my students enjoy it and because it is free. (And let’s be honest: what teacher doesn’t love a high-quality resource that doesn’t cost anything?!)

 

This year the team at Front Row rolled out a new feature: inquiry-based lessons. These are usually three or four lessons taught over as many days that cover a specific concept and are connected through a narrative that is tied to grade-level science or social studies concepts. (I wrote about them back in September for savvy readers with great memories, but I wanted to expand on them today.) There are a few free units available for each grade level, but the entire collection is only accessible with the paid School Edition. During the month of December, though, Front Row did an inquiry-based learning focus and ran several short contests. I participated in them and one of the prizes I received was full access to the entire library for the month of January.

We didn’t do anything with Front Row our first week back after break, but we dove in last week with a unit on rounding multidigit numbers based on a fictional cross-country road trip. Working with my guided math groups, I had students use these numbers to perform multidigit arithmetic with addition and subtraction, too. This week we did a multiplication unit connected to relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. For both units, I would start the students on the lesson and then have them work in their math teams while I worked with small groups at my back table. We would come together at the end of the unit to share answers and strategies for solving.

I loved listening to my students’ conversations as they worked! They would compliment each other, encourage one another, and use phrases like, “Oh, I didn’t think about it that way!” or “This is challenging; will you help me?” or “Oh, now I get it! Thanks!” I was also able to identify specific needs of students as I worked with their groups, such as the students who are not quite grasping the concept of multiplying by multiples of ten or the students who are not lining up digits by the place values. I also discovered that some of my students are much better at interpreting word problems than others and they are able to explain the problems in such a way that their peers were able to understand the task.

Next week will be our last Front Row unit that I do while I have access to the entire library, so I am going to use a unit on division of whole numbers. It will be interesting to see how the class responds because many of the students have not actually done division in a formal sense, but the lesson is designed in a way that they will naturally thinking about dividing objects into equal groups and then later learn to decide what to do with remainders.

I wish that Front Row had some kind of intermediary offering between the free teacher edition and the paid school edition because I would love to be able to continue to access all of these features. In the meantime, though, I will be grateful for the resources I have available!

What kind of success have you had with online learning tools?

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